Yesterday I said I hoped that Eric Loomis at LGM would do a post on the “environmental/labor rift” that the Times said was threatening Dem turnout this year. And he did! He frames it as a long-standing rift in the labor movement.
This is related to changes in the labor movement over the past four decades. What the CIO did was undermine the building trades’ domination over the labor movement. But even though the rise of public sector unionism has to some extent replaced it, the loss of the giant and generally progressive industrial unions like the UAW (now only the 11th largest union in the country) and USWA has left a vacuum that the building trades were more than happy to fill. So what you have in the labor movement, other than remnant industrial unions, are the often very politically conservative (although not universally so) building trades that have been conservative for a century or more and the public sector unions that really operate with very different classes (and races) of workers and that sometimes really have very little in common with a union like the Laborers.
That makes sense, and it really gets to the heart of what “unions” mean these days. We have the romantic notion of them being about helping people in the rough and dangerous trades, which they have, for the betterment of the nation. But those aren’t the only unions, and in a time when they are under assault, certainly not the most powerful, and obviously not the most progressive (those trades were the heart of the “Reagan Democrats”, who are now just called “Republicans” by everyone but the media). It’s probably time the media realized they aren’t the sole voice of unions.